There have been a number of significant CD releases of music from French composer Vincent d'Indy (1851-1931) the past couple years, expanding his repertory to the music-buying public in mostly good performances. This recording, from French specialist Theirry Fischer and the BBC National Orchestra of Wales, is another winner that should help people understand d'Indy is more than the composer of the ill-begotten Symphony on a French Mountain Air.
The major offering is the three-part "Wallenstein" suite, Op. 12 from the early part of d'Indy's career. Composed between 1870-81, the suite projects the composer's love of German culture and details military leader Albrecht von Wallenstein based on Schiller's poem "wallentstein." If you're not a student of the Thirty Years' War or 17th century Europe and this sounds familiar, it's because Bedrich Smetana also wrote a tone poem on the general, "Wallenstein's Camp."
Like Smetana's dramatic tone poem, d'Indy offers a variety of texture, excitement, orchestral color and lots of energy in his suite that portrays Wallenstein's camp, Max and Thecla (the love affair between a soldier and Wallenstein's daughter), and the death of Wallenstein. The notes call this a somber suite but I would call it more exciting and colorful than somber even though it ends with his death. The rainbow of orchestral colors are brightly-lit throughout with tempos from andante to allegro. This becomes very exciting music in Fischer's hands and is the principal reason to have interest in this recording.
The second reason to look here is the gossamer "Saugefleurie", a 17-minute tone poem about a fairy living in a hollow tree trunk by a lake. Saugefleurie ambulates at one point to fluttering flutes and gentle strings after lambasting her way through a brass fanfare. The highly inventive poem has similarities to the Mahler "Resurrection" symphony's section on horns over bird calls. This is French music with Wagnerian overtones of deep brass and chromatics, other trademarks of the composer's love of Germanic music and style.
A pair of pieces for viola and orchestra, the Choral varie Op. 55, a later work from 1903, and Lied op. 19, add something to the goings on in a satisfying concert of music from a source that won't be familiar to most listeners. Six pages of notes on the composer, music and performers as well as lovely cover art make a nice package for anyone either just getting into d'Indy's musical sphere or the most sophisticated collector. The playing is always wonderful with special plaudits to the Wales' horn section.
A musician typically lacking in profundity, d'Indy is nevertheless an inventive composer whose often-balletic compositions are not well-known and benefit from access to a wider audience. With advocacy like this from Fischer and playing of the first rank, this is an album that anyone with interest should consider. The notable disincentive is Hyperion's asking price of $21; you can usually find an Amazon source offering it for about two-thirds of that, making this an average full price issue.